Child Health and the Coronavirus

Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute webinar series helps guide parents and caregivers through the pandemic.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN if I get COVID-19 while I’m pregnant? Will my partner be allowed in the delivery room? Can my baby get the coronavirus? These were just a few of the questions on the minds of expectant mothers when the COVID-19 pandemic forced Rhode Island schools, businesses, and offices to shut down in March 2020.

The Hassenfeld Child Health Innovation Institute at Brown responded quickly, organizing a series of free webinars to inform the community about COVID-19. The webinars, held over Zoom, allow the public to submit questions to the institute’s child and maternal health expert panelists and get answers in real time.

“The webinar series is a wonderful opportunity to give families direct access to local experts,” said Hassenfeld Institute director Dr. Patrick Vivier. “The panelists have been outstanding, and the sessions have been very informative.”

The series kicked off in May with “Pregnancy and COVID-19,” featuring Dr. Erica Hardy, leader of the Division of Infectious Disease at Women & Infants Hospital, and Dr. Erika Werner, the division director for Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Women & Infants. Dr. Werner is also a member of the Hassenfeld Institute’s executive committee and a principal investigator on its birth cohort studies.

The webinar, moderated by Dr. Vivier, drew nearly 100 attendees, including caregivers from the community as well as Brown faculty and staff. Participants submitted more than 50 questions for Drs. Hardy and Werner.

“The webinar provided us an opportunity to give real-time obstetrics information on COVID-19 and also on hospital policies to anyone who attended,” Dr. Werner said. “The questions were so insightful and helped me, as a provider, to understand what pregnant women were most concerned about during this super challenging time.”

Since May, the Hassenfeld Institute has held five additional webinars, including “Questions about Autism during COVID-19 and Beyond,” which featured leaders of local autism advocacy groups. Parents were particularly
interested in learning how to support teenaged children with autism spectrum disorder, for whom there are fewer resources, and the panelists were able to offer helpful recommendations for local support groups and services.

Recordings of all the webinars are available as a resource on the Hassenfeld Institute’s YouTube channel. The Institute plans future webinars on topics related to supporting children through the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is part of the Hassenfeld Institute’s work to help the communities we serve be the healthiest places in the world for children and their families,” Dr. Vivier said.

Virtual Q&A Session


Pregnancy and COVID-19